A slow start: Legislature picking up the pace

Published 1:42 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The N.C. General Assembly has picked up steam after a slow start this session, according to two area legislators.

“This session has gotten off to an extremely slow start. Part of the reason is a couple weeks lost due to weather, and I believe we are now just beginning to catch up,” wrote state Rep. Michael Speciale, a Republican from Craven County, in an email. “Bills are still being filed because the drafting and filing dates have been extended and we won’t know how many bills are in the hopper until later next week when filing closes.”

State Rep. Paul Time, an unaffiliated legislator from Dare County, wrote the following in an email: “This session has started off slow and looks to be gearing up to high speed this next week. It is impossible to state which bills are the most important when there are so many competing issues that are very important. Based on talking with people throughout the district, the priorities for eastern North Carolina remain transportation, education, homeowners insurance and maintaining our rural health care.”

State Sen. Bill Cook, a Republican from Beaufort County, is following through on a campaign promise to reform the state’s property-insurance laws.

“I filed a comprehensive property insurance reform bill, SB 208. The bill ensures transparency and fairness in the North Carolina property insurance rate-making process. The bill requires insurers to provide detailed information concerning their cost and revenues. It gives the commissioners more latitude in setting rate levels,” Cook wrote in an email. “This bill gives insurers a more efficient mechanism for responding to catastrophic losses in the state. This legislation would create a public authority to issue tax-exempt bonds in order to finance potential catastrophic losses. The bonds would be issued if, and only if, a catastrophic event threatens to exhaust the resources of the property insurance pool. No bonds would be issued until after a catastrophic event has actually occurred.”

The bill is supported by N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, the North Carolina Association of Realtors and the North Carolina Homeowners Alliance, according to Cook.

One piece of legislation addresses microbreweries, of which there are several in eastern North Carolina or proposed for the region.

“I have a bill to increase the small brewery limits from 25,000 barrels to 100,000 barrels before a brewery must use a distributor to distribute its products,” Speciale wrote in an email. “I think this will spur growth and add jobs to this fledgling industry here in NC. There are several in Eastern NC alone. NC is the largest brewery state south of Pennsylvania and east of Texas.  This is a jobs bill! (H278)”

Tine has interest in the region getting its fair share of funding for its transportation needs.

“The discussion on transportation funding came quickly to the forefront earlier this year with the debate on the gas tax. The resulting law that froze the gas tax at 36 cents should only be treated as a temporary fix. The other Chairs of the House Transportation Appropriations Committee and I have been working on putting more consistency in our funding sources while reforming how the Department of Transportation operates,” Tine wrote in an email. “Our state is a decade behind in maintenance projects and we have over $56 billion of new projects in the pipeline. It is time that we take a leadership position and solve our transportation problems. My portion of the bill to be introduced this week is focused on reform and will emphasize responsiveness, transparency, organization and oversight. Put simply, we need to be on time and on budget while maximizing every tax dollar.”

This article is the second installment in an occasional series concerning area legislators’ efforts in the N.C. General Assembly.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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